all’s well that ends well

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My cousin’s wedding is quickly approaching, which means that Thalia needs to be finished soon if I want to wear it there! Luckily, last Thursday, I was able to spend nearly the entire day knitting, and knit all the way to the bind-off row…

This is all I have left for the loopy crochet bind-off for Thalia. I'm...not sure it's gonna be enough. What do we think, fellow knitters?

…to find that I only had that tiny little ball of yarn left to execute it. DISASTER!! The Thalia pattern uses a loopy crochet bind off, so I wasn’t at all sure that my little yarn ball would get me there.

So close, and yet so far?

I hemmed and hawed about what to do. I considered ripping back and leaving a plain row out of the edge lace, but didn’t think I could do that without creating a disaster (I hadn’t put a lifeline in or anything). I debated playing yarn-chicken and just going for it with my tiny ball, but couldn’t kick my doubts away. So then I went hunting for another yarn that I could use to bind-off. I love green, so I have a fair number of greens in my stash, but matching greens can be…tricky. These were the best two contenders I found:

Possible bind-off yarns? (Not sure either work...trying to work from stash here.)

The lighter one is Spud & Chloe Fine in “Glow Worm”, and the darker one is the leftover Dream in Color Baby in “Spring Tickle” from my Icarus Shawl and the Flutter Scarf I knit for my mom years ago. The “Glow Worm” was a similarly bright yellowy green, but it was so close-but-not-exact that it just wasn’t going to work, and I figured more contrast was the way to go. The “Spring Tickle” was actually pretty much the SAME green as my main yarn, just in a much darker shade, and ended up working beautifully in the bind-off! (And after knitting that bind-off, I’m even more sure that I made the right call in not trying to finish out with that tiny yarn ball.)

I’m all ready to block the shawl, so expect a post with a finished Thalia shawl soon!

other things i’ve been up to in May: commencement

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Even though I defended my dissertation last July, and have had my diploma since October, I figured that since I live in town, I may as well take part in commencement. I was actually asked to be one of the student marshals, which meant that I got to carry around a stick with ribbons tied onto it, and put people in alphabetical order. Nifty. M kept calling my regalia a “costume”, and she’s not wrong there – it’s a pretty silly get-up! But it was kind of fun to get to hear my name read, walk across the stage, and shake the university president’s hand (while being handed a tube with no diploma in it, since I already got mine in the mail!)…

Whitney getting a tube without a PhD (the real thing came in the mail in October)

…and get hooded:

Whitney being hooded.

Unfortunately, my rental regalia had a tam that was too small for my head, so it ended up being precariously perched on my head in a very uncomfortable manner during the entire ceremony. I was more than happy to plop it onto M’s head afterwards!

Post-commencement: M wears the silly hat.

Of course, we had to take photos of me all gussied up in my academic finest:

Closeup, with my dorky smile.

(I’m doing that dorky thing where I stick my tongue between my teeth while smiling…WHY do I do that??)

Taking a photo of mama in regalia (finally got commencement-day photos off the DSLR)

(M insists that her rhythm instrument is a camera, so my picture is actually being taken twice over!)

She's taking my closeup :)

(She’s taking my closeup!)

Me and my girl (finally got commencement-day photos off the DSLR)

I love that M got to be part of the photos we took – she and the dissertation “grew up” together, after all :)

Me and my girl, on commencement day.

That hood did NOT want to stay on my shoulders!

So, that was commencement. The graduate-student era of my life is officially no more, and I couldn’t be happier about that – life is so much better now. I’m proud of my accomplishment, but I do hope that M grows up knowing that a Ph.D is not something I expect of her…that she has worth and value regardless of the degrees she obtains, and that I’ll be proud of her for choosing a path that makes her happy and fulfilled, whatever it may be. I’m sure there is value in having high expectations, but I also know from my own experience that once a thing is expected of you, it robs a lot of the joy and pride from accomplishing it…you were supposed to accomplish it, after all, so nobody’s going to be surprised or impressed that you DID. Anyway, this is just something that I’m very conscious about, having been the child of a professor, and having never really seen paths outside of the academic one in my life, or rather, having never really felt that I had those other paths as options (I wasn’t actually so blind as to think those paths didn’t exist). I’m very happy with where I ended up, teaching writing to college freshmen – I can’t really think of a better job for me. But I definitely want M to know there are other things out there that are just as (or even more) worthwhile and she’s good enough no matter which of them she chooses. I’ll cheer and celebrate her accomplishments in any domain!

other things i’ve been up to in May: knitting a shawl

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Having fun with Thalia-in-progress.

The first thing I did upon finishing up grading my students’ portfolios was cast on for a shawl to wear at my cousin’s wedding on June 20th. I had a skein of bamboo-blend sock yarn in a light yellow green (which goes nicely with the dress I intend to wear), and I thought it would be perfect for Annis (spoiler alert: as you might guess from the photo that leads this post, Annis is not going to be the shawl I wear at my cousin’s wedding!).

Annis starts with a VERY long cast-on (363 stitches), which I did successfully the first time, and happily knit 7 (very long, time-consuming) rows of the lace pattern. Then, it was time for us to go to Ohio for Memorial Day weekend, so I stuffed it in my bag to bring with me. But then…when I took it out to start knitting, my circular needle broke. This has been happening more and more often with my Knitpicks Harmony interchangeables – the cord just pops out of the metal join. I really love the Harmony needle tips, and the interchangeable set has served me well for several years, but it seems like the glue is just going bad or something – it’s happening all the time now, and not just with the cords, but with the tips themselves popping out of the metal joins, also. (Advice on a replacement set is welcome!) In this case, it popped out while I was knitting, and I lost a bunch of stitches, and had to rip out…and then ended up with an enormous tangle of yarn that was making me cry. Luckily, my husband is an awesome person, and he methodically picked out the tangle for me so that I could cast on again:

This is love.
This is love.

So, I cast on 363 stitches again (this is not trivial, especially when you have a 3.5 year old around), and knit the first row, only to discover that I was 10 stitches short of completing a final repeat of the lace pattern (I don’t know whether this means I had too many or too few stitches, because I didn’t actually count the number of pattern repeats I’d knit). That was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. I mean, Annis looks pretty, but I just don’t think that a shawl knit from the bottom-up is a good fit for my mind and life as it currently stands. Counting and I just don’t seem to be good friends anymore (remember that this was part of the impetus behind switching the Stripes! cardigan to be top-down rather than bottom-up!).

So I starting going through my Queue and Favorites on Ravelry, trying to figure out what would make a nice summery shawl with a single skein of sock yarn. And then I remembered that I’d bought Kirsten Kapur’s Shawl Book One. I was going back-and-forth between Thalia and Nefertem, but a peek at the pattern revealed that Nefertem would require quite a few stitch markers, and I had exactly three with me on the trip (and no easy means of jury-rigging extras, either). This pushed me towards Thalia – and the lovely open “dots” in the body of the shawl helped, too, because it just looked more summery. So, Thalia it is!

Thalia-in-progress (I gave up on Annis)

I knit on it every chance I got while we were on our trip, like when we went to a playground with M and her cousin. It doesn’t look like much, all bunched up…

Thalia-in-progress, all scrunched up.

…but once you spread it out, so that the “dots” open up, it’s absolutely lovely!

Thalia-in-progress, stretched so that the dots pop (the texture is so great!)

I think it’s going to be an absolutely lovely shawl…I’ve just got to actually FINISH it in time to block it before we leave on June 17th. What do y’all think? Can I do it?

things i’ve been up to in May: learning to garden!

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Despite the end of the semester (and thus the end of my regular teaching schedule) at the beginning of the month, I’ve been a busy bee during May. So, now that we’re nearing the end of the month, I thought I’d play a little bit of catch-up here on the blog, starting with gardening!

Watering Mr. Zucchini

M has been very interested in growing plants and the idea of gardening, so I’m trying to let her enthusiasm carry me into the summer. I’m pretty clueless about gardening, honestly, but I’ve found friends and neighbors who are willing to give me good advice (and seedlings!) to get us started. In the photo above, M is watering the zucchini seedling that my friend surprised me with at a writing program brunch – it’s now planted in a very big pot, and seems to be doing fine.

In our other very big pot, we planted some carrot seeds:

Planted on May 17th - spotted the first little shoots of green this morning!

I don’t have a photo yet, but just this morning I spotted the first little green shoots coming up…here’s hoping they keep growing and we can actually get carrots out of this!

Since our backyard is a disaster, we don’t really have much in the way of gardening plans beyond those two big pots. Instead, I’ve adopted a bed in the new collaborative garden that I helped install with my neighbors and some United Way volunteers (who happened to be folks I knew from the U of R library, where my writing program office is located).

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Helping build a fence

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Wielding the sledgehammer

We spent 5 hours working together to build raised beds and a fence, and to move some compost into the beds…doesn’t it look fantastic?

We built all these beds AND put in the fence, working from 9am to 2pm. I had so much fun working with my neighbors!

I had so much fun working on this project!

Happy and tired, after installing a new cooperative garden with my neighbors at the local elementary school.

Our Swillburg neighborhood is collaborating with School #35, and will be helping to keep the students’ beds growing strong over the summer, as well as keeping our own beds going. The soil was delivered while we were in Ohio (for Memorial Day weekend), so now that we’re back in town, I’ve got to get over there to claim my bed, and put some seedlings in it. I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll be planting besides tomatoes, so I’m open to advice about things that would not be too challenging for a newbie gardener, and that might interest a 3.5 year old, too. And of course, it needs to be stuff we’d actually eat, so no beets (I just think they taste like dirt), but other than that…I don’t know, peppers? Eggplants? Peas? Spinach? Radishes? It’s an 8’x4′ bed, so there’s plenty of space. I am so clueless, but you can only learn by trying, right?

more stripes!

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Since I don’t have to be on campus this week (it’s finals week, so I’ve just got to read and grade my students’ Portfolios, which I can do at home!), I’m taking advantage of the gorgeous sunlight and access to my knitting projects. It is SO wonderful to be able to sit in the Poang next to the window upstairs and knit! I’ve made quite a bit of progress on my Stripes! cardigan:

Stimpy needed some snuggles.

Stimpy just can’t leave me alone when I have the camera out, so I gave him some snuggles. Here’s another photo:

Stripes! cardigan-in-progress (with cat).

I swear that the fronts actually do meet in the middle – and they certainly will once I add the zipper-facings and zipper. One thing you can tell from the photos is that the rows are long enough on this grown-up sized cardigan that the Chroma changes shade within each color band, on the lefthand side of the sweater. It’s not that bad, and I don’t really mind it, but it’s something worth keeping in mind when/if I write this up, because I’m rather small, which means that for anyone bigger than me, the color changing will be even more significant. But anyway, I’m really delighted with how it’s turning out so far!

loving this yoke.

I just can’t get enough of those garter ridges at the yoke!

can't get enough of these garter ridges!

And I actually love the wrong side of the work almost as much as I love the right one!

Color and texture, oh my!

Color and texture, oh my! I *just* had to join a new ball of Chroma (I was careful to wind off yarn until I got the color that matched, and to check that the color gradient was traveling the correct direction when I joined it), and my ball of Cascade Eco Wool is still going strong!

Stripes! cardigan-in-progress

I have so many (probably TOO many) knitting- and crafting-related plans for this summer, my first summer “off” in well over a decade, and I’m excited to share them with y’all! What’s on YOUR docket for the summer?

stripes! (with more false starts)

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The weather is finally warming up enough that I can take knitting to the playground with me to work on while M plays in the sandbox! Hooray, Spring!

Knitting at the playground

What you see in that photo is the 3rd? 4th? (I’ve lost track…it’s the “current” one, at any rate) attempt at the Stripes! cardigan I’m knitting for myself using Eco Wool and Knitpicks Chroma. After I finished Seraphim, I turned my attention to planning out a top-down version of the cardigan (as mentioned in this post). I cast on and knit the corrugated rib + vikkel braid collar at our recent Knitting Guild meeting (where Franklin Habit was the guest – he was SO FUN!), and then knit on it every evening during our nightly Parks & Rec viewing (we’re in Season 5 now – gosh, I love this show!)…

Top-down Stripes! Cardigan-in-progress for me :)

…but notice how it seems to be doing a lot of waving/kinking on the needles, and doesn’t want to lay flat? At first, I was blaming that on the needles, but no, it was the knit.

"Trying it on" (as much as one can, when its attached to cable needles that want to kink like crazy)

It just wasn’t going to work. It turns out that my brain is doing a horrible job of turning my usual “bottom up” formula for a yoke (which involves decreases) into a “top-down” formula for a yoke (which would involve increases), and I was increasing far too rapidly. So, I ripped it out and started over (again), and am slowly getting myself back to the point where it was before I ripped (it’s almost there, I just don’t have up-to-date photos). I’ve “tried” the new version on (with it on the needles) and it seems to be working much better. Here’s hoping that by this weekend, I can have a finished yoke, and start working on the body of the sweater…or do y’all think I should knit the sleeves down first?

it only took 6 years…

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Bundled up in my Seraphim shawl (angora is delightfully warm!)

I finished Seraphim in time to wear it for my birthday this Sunday! I cast on for this shawl, according to Ravelry, in Spring of 2009, only to end up shoving it in a drawer when I’d almost reached the lace patterning and not discovering it again until about a month ago. I’m so glad I finished it. Isn’t it beautiful?

I knit a very pretty triangle!

Here are the details:
Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Seraphim, by Miriam Felton
Yarn: Fly Designs Flutterby, in Turquoise
Needles: Knitpicks size 3 circulars

The Flutterby yarn was absolutely delightful to knit with – it’s an angora-nylon blend, is amazingly soft, has a gorgeous halo, and barely sheds at all (compared to other experiences I’ve had with angora). I definitely want to knit with it again sometime – it is an absolute delight to wear around my shoulders. So warm, too, which is not exactly the best given that we’re heading into Spring and warmer weather, but I run cold, and there will always be another Winter.

RealCamera shawl photo from this morning.

Blocking shawls is quite a challenge in our house, given the combination of cats, a preschooler, and hardwood floors (no pinnable surfaces!). I was able to rig up my foam tiles from Knitpicks to get enough pinnable surface area in combination with my blocking wires after M went to bed one evening last week, and then we carried the whole thing down to the basement to keep the cats away. Ooof!

Blocking. Goodness, it's hard to block lace in this house.

Alas, the angora didn’t hold the blocking all the well, and the edges are already starting to curl a bit when I wear it the way I prefer to wear triangle shawls.

Seraphim, worn the way I normally wear triangle shawls.

I may decide to add a crochet edging or something to try to counteract that, but I just don’t think it’s in this yarn’s nature to hold a severe blocking. It’s pretty even with the curling, and just so incredibly wonderful to wear around my neck.

Seraphim shawl, lace closeup

I’m not sure if I have any other partially-finished projects stashed away that would be worth finishing, but this one…this one I’m very glad I finished! It was a wonderful birthday present to myself, 6 years in the making. My birthday this Sunday ended up being fantastic – the weather was AMAZING, the service at church was delightfully music-filled, I got to blow out candles on a carrot-cupcake from the batch that A and M made while I was working my butt off giving feedback on my students’ research papers on Saturday, go to hang out with my work friends at a party that evening, and the funniest one: M slept the whole night in her own bed Saturday night, so when she woke up, I told her she’d given me the best birthday present ever by doing that. So then when she slept in her own bed the whole night on Sunday night, the next morning she proudly said, “mama, I gave you another birthday present!” Other funny thing: I jokingly told her that since our gutters (which got torn off by falling ice) were being replaced today, that they were a birthday present for me too, and so now she’s calling them my “birthday gutters”. Because isn’t that what every newly-32 year old wants for her birthday?